An unexamined life is not worth living.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Grandmaster Preparation ...Not

How do you prepare for a chess tournament, give that time available and resolve to win are in limited amounts? In 2006 I decided that I need to play at least one serious tournament a year. Since Keres Memorial is the only regular open tournament held in Vancouver, BC, the choice is clear. So that's why I am planning to play in Keres Memorial 2008 in less than a week. The process of preparing for it will be however quite different from what Lev Polugaevsky described in his classic book "Grandmaster Preparation"

Polugaevsky (1934-1995) was known for spending countless hours analyzing positions from his opening repertoire to great depth and preparing forced variations where he would foresee arising positions up to the point where his attack would give a clear win. Here is what a human mortal like me is more likely to do for a preparation for a given tournament:

1) Go over my file of openings and decide on what I actually want to play. For White I have been sticking to 1.e4 for nearly all my games since year 2000, but for Black there are definitely some decisions to be made.

2) Play some games on ICC to at least remember how the pieces move. Normally I take this to the next level, and go through the online games I played in more depth later (as in this example)- usually to see if I made any crucial mistakes in the opening. This time the goal is just to get back into shape as soon as possible. Ideally I would play a couple of training games with the same time control as the real tournament, but I have not done this for a very long time, and won't have time for it this time either. Last time I did this before a big tournament was before Keres 2001, and not surprisingly I did quite well that year (2280 performance). Practicing for a specific time control really helps to manage time better, especially during the first couple of rounds.

3) Do some tactics, either on a computer, or from a printed sheet. Tactics tend to decide most of the games at most levels, beginner or grandmaster. So being able to calculate well and efficiently is crucial, and a tactical trick can always save a game that has gone wrong otherwise (because of opening or whatever).

Like a real "chess pro", I took two days of vacation from my day job to take care of these steps, just so that I am less likely to hang a piece in round 1. Will I get to play Orlov this year? Otherwise, I don't think this tournament will be very different for me from 2006 or 2007.

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